The Frontstretch: 2011 NASCAR Driver Review: Austin Dillon by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Friday December 2, 2011

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2011 NASCAR Driver Review: Austin Dillon

Beth Lunkenheimer · Friday December 2, 2011

 

Austin Dillon

2011 Ride: No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
2011 Primary Sponsor: Bass Pro Shops / Remington / Tracker Boats
2011 Owner: Richard Childress
2011 Crew Chief: Danny Stockman

Truck Series Stats: 25 Races, 2 Wins, 10 Top 5s, 16 Top 10s, 5 Poles, two DNFs, 1st in Points.

Best Finish: 1st – Twice (Nashville – July, Chicagoland – September).
Average Finish: 9.3.

High Point: Winning the championship would arguably be the high point in any driver’s season, and Austin Dillon is no exception. He became the first Truck Series Rookie of the Year to follow up in his sophomore season with a championship while also becoming the youngest series champion at the age of 21. With eight top-10 finishes in the final nine races, Dillon closed out the championship despite some tense moments at Homestead. Following a late race restart, the driver of the No. 3 dropped like a rock while his closest competitor, Johnny Sauter led the race. But just as the rains were closing in on the final race, Dillon worked his way up to tenth, giving him the six point advantage over Sauter.

Low Point: To find the true low point of the 2011 season for Dillon, you’d have to look all the way back to the season opener at Daytona. After scoring his eighth career pole, Dillon led the field to the green and remained inside the top 5 for much of the race. But it wasn’t meant to be for the No. 3 team—a multi-truck wreck ensued behind Dillon, and his left-rear was clipped, sending him into the outside wall in the tri-oval. The carnage resulted in a ten minute red flag and a 20th-place finish for the driver fresh off of his Rookie of the Year title.

Summary: In a sport where sophomore seasons typically are mediocre at best, Dillon stepped up and showed the NASCAR world why he’s racing. Matching the number of wins and top-10 finishes he scored in his rookie season last year, Dillon made the most of even the worst day on the track—except Daytona. Even when his hood flew up with just 20 laps remaining at Kentucky, Dillon—with plenty of help from his spotter—kept his cool, headed to pit road and still managed to pull out a

2011 Team Ranking: 1. Dillon’s teammate Joey Coulter took home Rookie of the Year honors, no small accomplishment but it pales in comparison to taking home the biggest trophy of all after Homestead.

2012 Outlook: Dillon is headed off to the Nationwide Series full-time next season to pilot the No. 3 Chevrolet with RCR. With backing for 20 races by AdvoCare, the team returns after taking a year off from Nationwide. Dillon has four top 10s in 11 previous starts in the series, including a career-best of third at Nashville in July.

Off-Track News: Alright, so it’s not exactly off-track, but Dillon made his Sprint Cup Series debut at Kansas Speedway in October. Behind the wheel of the No. 98 for owner Mike Curb—in partnership with RCR—Dillon started 26th, struggled with a loose car for much of the race and even brushed the wall, leaving him with minor damage to the right front fender. While the damage wasn’t terminal and didn’t require any repairs, he was left to finish 26th.

2011 Frontstretch.com Grade: A+.

Contact Beth Lunkenheimer

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